By SCOTT JACKSON Courier sports writer
---- — OTTUMWA — Coming from Des Moines, where the weather had been rapidly deteriorating all day long, the Lincoln High girls tennis team wasn't taking any chances.
After already trying once this year to open CIML Metro action against the Bulldogs, the Railsplitters made sure they didn't waste any time arriving Monday for their make-up dual at Dan Staggs Courts.
"Their bus got here really early," Ottumwa junior Jill Ardueser said. "They wanted to get on with us as soon as possible to make sure we wouldn't have a rain delay."
Ardueser, for one, was more than happy to keep things moving along on Monday. Over four sets of singles and doubles play, Ardueser dropped just five games and helped the Bulldogs get off to the right start in Metro action.
Ardueser and Katie Zingg both lost just one game in sweeping the No. 5 and 6 singles matches to get Ottumwa off to a strong start. Even more importantly, both players were part of the dominant depth that helped the Bulldogs win four of the five doubles matches that made the ultimate difference in a 7-4 win over the Railsplitters on a night that began chaotically and ended celebratory for the home team.
"I was really proud of the girls to be able to play as well as they did," Ottumwa assistant girls tennis coach Leanna Nelson said. "Considering the circumstances, for the girls to play this well was pretty great to see."
Besides worrying about impending weather and focusing on beating their first Metro opponent, the Bulldog girls tennis team had to take the court on Monday without their head coach. Emily Phommachak went home ill earlier in the day, leaving Nelson in charge of getting the team ready for Monday's dual while keeping the head coach up to date on proceedings.
"I was calling and texting (Coach Phommachak) all day. My fourth-grade class was going off the wall," Nelson said. "I know the girls really missed her, but they adjusted to the assistant coaches being here and leading the way instead."
Once things got under way, Ardueser helped make things a lot easier on her coach. With a few sprinkles falling just as her No. 5 singles match with Kellie Murtle got started, Ardueser knew there wasn't much time to lose out on the court.
"I just wanted to keep her moving out there," Ardueser said. "I wanted to keep her going to her backhand. That was the main thing that worked for me."
Ardueser's 6-1, 6-0 win and Zingg's 6-0, 6-1 win over Diana Yang put Ottumwa up early before Lincoln rallied behind tougher wins in the No. 4 singles by Haley Johnson and Emily Cox, who beat Kelsey Granneman 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 in the top singles match to tie the dual a 3-3 heading into doubles. Again, Ottumwa relied on its depth as the Bulldogs started strong behind their No. 5 team of Anna Graeff and Abagail Messer, who won 6-1 and 6-2 to set an early tone.
Hayli Beeson and Ardueser followed right up, scoring a 6-1, 6-3 win of their own in the No. 2 doubles match. Sydney Grooms and Megan Black then put Lincoln away suddenly with a shutout sweep, 6-0, 6-0 in the No. 4 doubles to clinch a Metro-opening win for Ottumwa.
"The doubles are pretty important to us. We want to get as many wins as possible," Ardueser said. "I'm pretty proud of all the girls. Everyone on the team has been working really hard."
"To win four of those five doubles matches is big for all of our girls," Nelson added. "To see some of them going out in 1-0 and 0-0 is also really impressive, especially under the circumstances of us not being able to get out and practice as much this year."
The Ottumwa junior varsity also picked up 16 wins in 19 matches against Lincoln, capping the end to a quick but very successful day to open Metro play. The Bulldogs (2-2, 1-0) will look for more Metro success against their newest conference rival, weather permitting, today as Ottumwa heads to Indianola at 4 p.m.
"Coach (Phommachack) was telling me to give all the girls high-fives through the fences," Nelson said. "I know she was definately here in spirit with us."
Ottumwa 7, Des Moines Lincoln 4
No. 1 — Emily Cox (Des Moines Lincoln) def. Kelsey Granneman (Ottumwa) 7-6 (5), 6-1. No. 2 — Jennifer Klodt (O) def. Gracie Benton (DML) 6-4, 6-2. No. 3 — Madeline Jannes (DML) def. Hayli Beeson (O) 6-2, 6-2. No. 4 — Haley Johnson (DML) def. Sydney Grooms (O) 6-3, 6-4. No. 5 — Jill Ardueser (O) def. Kellie Murtle (DML) 6-1, 6-0. No. 6 — Katie Zingg (O) def. Diana Yang (DML) 6-0, 6-1.
No. 1 — Cox and Benton (DML) def. Granneman and Klodt (O) 6-1, 6-4. No. 2 — Beeson and Ardueser (O) def. Madeline Jannes and C. Jannes (DML) 6-1, 6-3. No. 3 — Zingg and Beth Overturf (O) def. Johnson and Yang (DML) 6-3, 6-0. No. 4 — Grooms and Megan Black (O) def. Murtle and Luchua Yang (DML) 6-0, 6-0. No. 5 — Anna Graeff and Abagail Messer (O) def. Jennfer Yang and Katie Webb (DML) 6-1, 6-2.